Britton's bullpen session a success
Throws 25 pitches in first outing since left shoulder inflammation
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles pitcher Zach Britton continues to inch forward in his progression from left shoulder inflammation, throwing a 25-pitch bullpen session Friday that left Britton and the coaching staff impressed.
"I was throwing strikes," said Britton, who threw to bullpen catcher Ronnie Deck, standing in front of the mound and gradually working his way back to the rubber. "I think there were three mishaps, two balls I bounced and one that kind of cut on me a little bit.
"[It was] probably the best first bullpen in a long time. Normally, your first bullpen is pretty bad, but I felt pretty good. I wasn't sore at all when I threw off the mound or when I was done, so I think [Saturday] I'll be fine."
Britton will throw another bullpen session on Monday, with more pitches and perhaps some offspeed stuff, and acknowledged that the biggest test is how his shoulder feels in between. He will play long toss over the weekend and the Orioles -- who have been cautious in moving Britton along -- maintain that the 24-year-old will be able to compete for a roster spot this spring.
"We've probably got five or six different scenarios mapped out, but it all depends on how he feels," pitching coach Rick Adair said of Britton, who could possibly eclipse 20 spring innings if everything stays on track.
"He felt healthy [on Friday] and his body has gotten more consistent," Adair added. "I was just telling him how much better he had gotten in a couple of areas, things we worked on last year, he's gotten a lot better."
Britton, who started experiencing shoulder discomfort last August, threw 10 pitches off a half-mound on Thursday to see how his arm would feel on a slight elevation. He came through that test pain free, and said he has no reason to believe Saturday morning he will feel any different.
"[I'm] still a little awkward on the mound, because I hadn't been on one before," Britton said, "But I think it was a good first step."
Britton would need at least four starts this spring to be able to break camp with the Orioles. Given that arm strength isn't an issue -- he has been throwing a large volume of pitches at various distances as part of his rehab -- the Orioles could tinker with his schedule and speed things up if the inflammation continues to subside.
The organization has remained vigilant in not rushing Britton, but also won't know how far along he is until he starts to be pushed harder.
In his first 23 Major League games last season, Britton went 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA, landing on the disabled list in August with left shoulder inflammation, which lingered in the offseason. If healthy, he is considered to be a strong candidate for the Orioles' starting rotation.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.